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Grant supports reality check on child poverty

March 11, 2009

KALAMAZOO--A W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to Western Michigan University will focus on child poverty in the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Mich., areas and support the educational, research and service mission of WMU's Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.

The $98,500 foundation grant will boost the institute's efforts to become a nationally prominent center for applied research on equitable and inclusive communities and on reducing racial and ethnic disparities. It also will help the institute further develop its capacity to carry out its educational and service missions through teaching, community forums, print and electronic media, and by increasing opportunities for service learning at WMU.

"Much of the grant will support our collaboration with the Kalamazoo County Poverty Reduction Initiative to implement a 'One Community' model in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Through it, we will produce and disseminate information that will provide a 'reality check' about the high ideals that are the foundation for our community and civic life," says Dr. Timothy Ready, director of the Walker Institute.

According to recent U.S. Census data, child poverty rates in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek already were alarmingly high prior to the dramatic economic downturn that began in the summer of 2008. In 2007, 39 percent of children in Kalamazoo were poor, placing Kalamazoo above the 95th percentile nationally for child poverty. Nearly one-third of all children in Battle Creek also were poor, much above the state and national averages. In both cities, more than sixty percent of black children were in poverty, placing both Kalamazoo and Battle Creek near the top of the list of U.S. cities with the highest African-American child poverty rates. While poverty rates for African-American children in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, and for Latino children in Kalamazoo, are especially alarming, poverty among white children in both cities also was much higher than average. Child poverty is associated with a wide variety of impediments to achieving what is commonly understood to be the “American Dream” as children mature into adulthood.

In implementing the One Community model, the Walker Institute will track trends in poverty-related quality-of-life indicators for children in both communities and assess what is working well and what else might be done to reduce poverty and gaping disparities by race and class. Ready hopes that the project will raise the visibility of child poverty as a public policy issue, and lead to a process of community transformation resulting in more equitable access to opportunities and resources for children from all backgrounds.

The grant will support the implementation of the One Community model, which operates under the principle that the region's prosperity and quality of life depend on all residents contributing fully to the economic, social and cultural life of their communities and the state. The grant also will be used to increase the number of WMU students who take classes that involve service learning in community settings in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. It also will allow the Walker Institute to bring nationally renowned guest speakers to the area and to visit leading centers around the country that have missions similar to that of the Walker Institute.

For more information about the WMU work, contact Dr. Timothy Ready, at timothy.ready@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2142.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930. The organization supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the southern African countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

For further information, please visit the foundation at www.wkkf.org.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400